On the 3rd of July this year I took 24 girls from year 7 to 12 to Rotherham for the #gamesbritannia schools videogame festival. It was a tiring but fantastic day and based on the reactions from the girls and from some of the staff it was a very rewarding and useful day.
One of the workshops I want to focus on is the Minecraft workshop we managed to get on as the music workshop was cancelled. I personally love Minecraft and have enjoyed building some giant structures in it (I suck though at basic redstone circuitry). I therefore was really pleased to get some of the girls on it.
The workshop was being led by two Finns from http://minecraftedu.com who are building essentially a ‘version’ of Minecraft for school which uses the standard Minecraft but gives you extra controls and options as a teacher such as teleporting pupils to a location if you wish too demonstrate something. The licencing may seem costly at about £200 for a set of 25 licences but those are per seat so if you have 100 pupils but are only going to run a small session at a time you will need to buy only 25 licences.
The session itself consisted largely of getting the girls through the training world and then allowing them free rein on a multiplayer server in creative mode. Those girls who had never played Minecraft before took to the game reasonably well and showed that they were quite capable at doing some interesting things. At one point I left my avatar alone for a bit whilst helping another pupil and some other other pupils then proceeded to bury me in obsidian and lava not realising I could teleport quite easily!
I chatted a bit with Santeri who was leading the session about the use of Minecraft in the classroom and he was mentioning things like English, Maths and Science and I know certainly through the use of redstone circuitry there are some basic computer science issues which can be looked at such as building logic gates.
Therefore getting Minecraft to be used in school properly comes down to two approaches: using it as part of direct lesson time or using it as an enrichment activity. I think that over time there will be more and more solid approaches to using Minecraft in lessons that will be developed but to be honest I am not too sure I could see it being used like this just yet unless you have a teacher who is very keen on Minecraft.
Where I can see Minecraft and in particular Minecraftedu being used quite well is as an enrichment activity for pupils. It is ideal as a solution for allowing pupils free rein to develop their own ‘games’ or set their own tasks and then learn how to collaborate and work as a team together. I foresee when I get Minecraftedu setting up timed build competitions ranging from the simple such as building a house to the complex such as creating a bit of redstone circuitry. This has an approach I think could definitely help enhance independent and self-d
Whichever way Minecraft goes within schools I think it can have its place as another tool to provide challenging and thought provoking activities for pupils. Possibly one day I can build a full scale #digitalstudies project based on Minecraft – who knows? Besides #digitalstudies is in a sort of way a bit of sandbox curriculum so I suppose Minecraft could be a good fit.